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Minister support 'no bribe' agreement

Chadchart welcomes scrutiny of Bt2.27-tn construction investment; backs anti-graft group's proposal



Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt yesterday supported a proposal that those involved in state construction projects be required to sign an "agreement of virtue" promising not to accept or offer bribes, in a bid to push forward the government's Bt2.27-trillion infrastructure investment plan.

The minister, who has oversight of the huge infrastructure investment and its annual budget of about Bt100 billion, said the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) proposal, aimed at preventing bid fixing, would be applied to all projects under his ministry's responsibility.

"The ACT proposal is good. I like it. And I believe the officials involved will be happy to have more people help them with the scrutiny," he said after meeting ACT representatives at the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

Among the pilot projects implemented under the anti-graft campaign's proposal would be the Bt13-billion procurement of 3,183 buses for the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority, the construction of a second phase of the Suvarnabhumi Airport worth Bt50 billion-Bt60 billion, and the expansion of the motorway, according to the transport minister.

Transport Ministry permanent secretary Wichean Potephosri was assigned to study the proposed "agreement of virtue" in detail to ensure it complied with the law and to determine whether it would be legally binding, according to Chadchart. The results of the study are expected within a month.

"This proposal will be applied at the Transport Ministry first. If it works well, the Cabinet will be asked to have other state agencies adopt it as well," the transport minister said.

Chadchart said the main forms of irregularity involving bidding for government projects are:

_ setting high median prices to allow the winner to make high profits and pay kickbacks;

_ setting the specifications in such a way that only certain bidders are qualified; and

_ allowing work of poor quality to pass in exchange for bribes.

ACT chairman Pramon Sutivong said yesterday that his group's proposal calls for both state agencies that own projects and private firms who bid for the projects to sign an agreement that they would not take or offer bribes.

"Anyone who refuses to sign the agreement will not be allowed to bid. Those who violate the agreement's terms will face legal action," he said.

The anti-graft campaign will discuss the proposal with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong today(Feb 8) and plans to ask the Cabinet to apply the proposal to all ministries as a measure to ensure transparent bidding on government projects, according to Pramon.

He praised the transport minister for agreeing to the ACT proposal.

"The Transport Ministry is a major agency that actually spends the budget [for construction projects]. This will be an important turning point" in the fight against corruption, he said.

In addition to the "agreement of virtue", the ACT called on the government to make the anti-corruption fight a national priority, to allow independent observers to monitor all stages of bidding, and to appoint the group's representatives to the Transport Ministry's Centre Against Corruption to help with the scrutiny.

The ACT vowed to closely monitor implementation of the Bt2.27-trillion investment plan.

According to a Global Financial Integrity report released in mid-December, an average of US$6.42 billion (Bt192.6 billion) a year illegally flowed out of Thailand between 2001 and 2010. A large portion of this was believed to have been earned through corruption. Thailand ranked 13th in terms of the outflow size among the 143 developing countries studied.


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